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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Garrick


  Eliza Hope Bennett and Aaron Sidwell/ Ph: Tristram Kenton

That well-worn phrase about seeing a musical and leaving the theater humming the scenery is nowhere more evident than in Loserville, a self-consciously peppy and preppy show, set in an American college in 1971, that tries so hard to please you want to slap its face and tell it to calm down.

A patchwork quilt, it stitches together elements of High School Musical, The Social Network, Glee and Grease and overplays the youth card in telling the anorexic story of a group of geeks, notably Michael Dork (Aaron Sidwell), who have devoted their young lives to inventing an electronic gadget that can send and receive messages. In other words, e-mails. They wear glasses, are frightened of girls and, unsurprisingly, are the butt of the campus’s more testosterone-motivated jocks – like the objectionable ab-displaying Eddie (Stewart Clark), whose father is a big noise in computers.

Romance enters the equation when Holly (Eliza Hope Bennett), a girl with both beauty and brains, arrives on campus and becomes involved with Michael, who hitherto has forsworn girls in favour of electronics.

Naturally, the course of young love hits the buffers due to an act of betrayal perpetrated by Michael’s best friend – another geek (Richard Lowe) who’s in the process of writing what turns out to be Star Wars.

This being a musical comedy, though, it all ends happily, with love’s young dream fulfilled and Eddie, the token baddie, getting his come-uppance.

Paucity of plot has rarely been a hindrance to a musical, providing of course that the show’s other elements all pull their weight.

Unfortunately, the score by Elliot Davis and James Bourne, several of whose songs were first heard in Bourne’s 2005 Busted album "Welcome to Loserville," lacks anything remotely resembling a melody or a sustainable tune. At least not to my ears. An insistent, pulsating beat – which defines most of the score – is no substitute for a good tune. I listened in vain for a single catchy song I’d like to hear again.

As for the lyrics, they’re among the most lazily turned (like rhyming “girl” with “world”) currently to be heard in London. Stephen Sondheim once told me that writing lyrics was like running up hill all the time – extremely hard work. These are just sloppy. No evidence of “hard work” at all.

Nick Winston’s choreography keeps the action moving fluidly enough and compensates in youthful brio for what it lacks in originality. The enthusiastic cast gives its all under Steve Dexter’s efficient direction, but they’re all upstaged by Francis O’Connor’s endlessly inventive set – the one undoubted triumph of the evening.

Using movable, giant-sized notebooks, each with a different image on them, they’re skillfully manipulated to convey dozens of different locales. They’re even used to provide movie-like credits at the beginning and end of the show. A visual treat.

If only the rest of this well-intentioned, occasionally enjoyable youth fest were as striking and as fresh as the designs, Loserville might just have been a contender.


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